As with most agencies throughout the country, the Douglas County Parks Trails and Building Grounds Division is continually asked to provide more with less (less money, less people, less time). Nowhere is this more apparent than in what is asked of the maintenance crews on a daily basis.

Designers have the easy job. It is a fairly quick process overall to design, bid and construct a park. But after the last roll of sod is installed, the grand-opening party is a memory, and the design team moves onto the next project, the maintenance team is saddled with the task of keeping parks living up to design and use expectations, no matter how unattainable that may be.

Now Accepting Input

Designers can plan wonderful park facilities, but without proper maintenance, they will not look attractive or function well. All too often, the maintenance and design teams see the other as a group to be tolerated to achieve necessary but individual goals. Although nothing can be further from the truth, this age-old mindset is prevalent through a number of agencies, and needs to be addressed.

One of the best ways to address it is to bring maintenance staff into projects during the design phase, where it is able to offer insight into design solutions. This also aids in developing a vested interest in the overall project’s appearance, helping designers approach solutions in a new and creative manner, and bridge a gap with maintenance staff regarding its ability to input ideas into the final design.

Problems For Maintenance Staff

Projects should not be designed solely for the maintenance staff, but listening to other ideas can lead to some creative and sustainable design solutions. For example, staffers can point out the weakness and impracticality of a design that includes planting areas between parking lots and sidewalks that are too narrow to maintain or impossible to mow with cars parked in the lot. Another potential problem that can easily be dealt with is the equipment used to maintain parks and trails. Nothing is more frustrating to a maintenance staff than seeing a trail designed and constructed at a two-foot width, only to find that the piece of equipment to be used is four feet wide.

Real cooperation helps to expedite the maintenance of parks and trails, while balancing an exciting and innovative park design. The faster that workers are able to maintain facilities, the fewer full-time employees are required to keep the system in top shape.

Plan Ahead For Team Unity

Design and maintenance do not have to be mutually exclusive. With a little time and teamwork, designers can produce some innovative designs that are also maintainable over a long period of time.

Randy Burkhardt ASLA is a Landscape Architect employed by Douglas County, Colo., as the Parks and Trails Planner. He can be reached via e-mail at

Curt Sloan is manager of the Parks, Trails and Building Grounds department for Douglas County, Colo. He can be reached via e-mail at